Report into council chief executive’s relocation allowance kept secret

Nathan Elvery has been chief executive at West Sussex County Council since 2016
Nathan Elvery has been chief executive at West Sussex County Council since 2016

A report commissioned to examine a £47,500 payment made to West Sussex County Council’s chief executive will not be made public.

The allowance was received by Nathan Elvery to help him move to the area when he joined the authority from Croydon on top of his £190,000 a year salary.

With Mr Elvery still owning a home in Epsom as well as his flat in Chichester, the payment was described as ‘immoral’ by Lib Dem councillor James Walsh.

Questions were raised at a meeting of the governance committee in January and the then chairman of the council Lionel Barnard asked Heather Daley, director of human resources, to ‘investigate this matter and let us have her report’.

The report was completed but the council said it would not be made public ‘as it contains personal information’.

There was frustration for Dr Walsh and Labour councillor Michael Jones when they were not allowed to discuss the decision at the latest meeting of the governance committee on Monday (May 13).

Dr Walsh had questioned the accuracy of the way the matter had been minuted after the last meeting but both he and Mr Jones were interrupted several times when they tried to discuss the issue.

They were also not allowed to raise it as an urgent matter later in the meeting.

Mr Jones said he intended to ask for the item to be put on the agenda for the next meeting – but there is no guarantee that his request would be approved.

He said: “I had hoped we were going to get some answers about what the council proposed to do with this report, or if they considered just writing the report to be the end of the matter.”

Saying there was an ‘obvious public interest’, he added: “There is a puzzling veil of secrecy over this issue which I personally think does the council more harm than good.  

“It is unlikely to enhance public confidence in the council, or its reputation.”

Saying it was ‘frustrating’ not to be allowed to ask questions, Mr Jones added: “The report has been gathering dust on a shelf since it was delivered some time ago.

“And I think the public have every right to question why such secrecy is necessary.”

The council has always insisted that the payment was ‘fully in line with policy’.

A spokesman said: “That report has been delivered and the chairman is satisfied that the council’s policies were correctly applied in the recruitment of the chief executive.

“For the purpose of accuracy, the council’s recruitment and retention policy provides for the use of resettlement allowances to secure the best candidate for posts which may otherwise be difficult to recruit to.

“With the council’s agreement, the candidate used the available allowance to assist in acquiring a property close to the main work base in Chichester so that he is better able to discharge his duties.

“There is no requirement for the appointed person to relocate their main residence in order to meet the aims and provisions of the policy.”